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May 2011 – Sue McDougall

May is my favourite time of the year. Cooler mornings are a sign of things to come – lots of rain. The season is close to breaking and finally we have seen some rain tumbling down. After experiencing one of the driest years on record I am amazed how well our gardens have fared. Take a look around the neighbourhood or in a friend’s garden, those plants that are thriving are the hardy varieties.

Ants have been very busy and in particularly bad cases they will excavate the soil from around the roots of the plants exposing them to the air and causing the plants to die.  The team at Better Pets and Gardens has the best choices available to control them.

Ornamental Garden

Damp nights at this time of the year go hand in hand with black spot and powdery mildew on roses. They can be sprayed but if there are only a few leaves damaged, it is not the end of the world.  Pluck them off and be sure to keep the roses well fed and healthy. A healthy plant can cope with an attack of a pest or disease more successfully than a sick struggling plant.

Azaleas are starting to flower and it is time to start to control azalea petal blight. This fungus causes the flowers to go mushy and hang onto the plant.  Unfortunately it can’t be ignored or it will spread through other azaleas. Spray with Mancozeb Plus just as the buds are starting to show colour.

New growth on citrus leaves is being infected with citrus leaf miner. This small flying adult lays her egg under the top layer on the new growth and as it develops the larvae mines its way through the leaf causing it to distort and look silver in colour. Trim damaged leaves off and spray white oil or pest oil as a preventative. This works by coating the leaf so when the adult tries to lay her egg she fails and it slips off.

Resist the urge to prune the garden shrubs that look a little spindly and straggly. As a general guide, prune shrubs after their main flowering flush since this is when they are in an active growth phase.

WA grows warm climate grass varieties very successfully but in autumn when the days cool off these lawn varieties start to yellow. If you give the lawn a light feed now with a quality lawn fertiliser it will get the lawn growing strong before the winter sets in fully. Usually I would recommend a little earlier than this but we have had a very warm April with no cold days to speak of, so the soil is still warm.

May is the perfect time to establish a new garden area or revamp an existing garden. The soil is still warm and the plants have a great chance to get established before the hot weather sets in again. Maybe it is time to replace some plants that really didn’t fare the drought very well with hardier species.

The Edible Garden

The first of the broccoli crop is ready to pick. Harvest what you need it and leave the plants in the ground as side shoots will develop and a second crop will form. The first crop is great as you don’t have to dissect it looking for larvae from the cabbage white butterfly which camouflage brilliantly. A hollow stem in broccoli is a sign of boron deficiency.  Apply a complete fertiliser that contains boron to fix this problem.

It’s time to plant English spinach. It is a winter crop and best to get established early when the weather is still a little warmer. Grow it fast and pick only the amount of leaves you need and let the rest grow on. Many recipes call for fresh English spinach and there is nothing like having your own fresh supply out in the backyard.

As you pull the spent basil plants, replace them with coriander. Repeat harvest lettuces are planted at the moment also and due to our warm April they will be ready to harvest in no time.

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